What is a learning organization?

Most of us understand that being really good at something is not static in its nature. In all walks of life (sports, governments, companies, etc.) the best always seem to be able to adapt faster to changing circumstances than the rest. And adapt better.  This is an increasingly valuable trait in our times, because of the ever increasing speed of change.

All organizations learn at some level, because we as individuals always learn from experience to some extend (it is our nature). Unfortunately for most organizations this is where it stops. Very few organizations are good at learning on the organizational level (generalize and leverage the individual learning).  Another  way of saying this would be that in general we lack the skills to turn personal learning into institutional knowledge.

Learning on an organizational level is a widely researched, but not well understood topic.  The best model (in terms of clarity and usefulness) that I have come across is by Steven J. Spear from his book “The High Velocity Edge”. Through his years of dedicated research into the best performing companies around the world Steven has managed to identify the dna of these world class companies.  Based on this extensive research Steven J. Spear claims there are four distinctive  capabilities that set the best apart from the rest:

Learning organization - Steven J. Spear
Learning organization – Steven J. Spear

Capability 1: System design and operation

The capability to design and operate systems in the right way is at the core of a learning organization. System design should always start with clarity about the purpose of the systems. What is the value which is produced by system and who is the customer? The answer can vary from very concrete (a car made to the customers specification)  to quite abstract (gather information for strategic decision making), but the principle is the same. We should always understand who the customer is and what is valuable from their point of view and design the system output accordingly.

Once we understand what system output  should be we can proceed to design the rest of the system from an outside in perspective by the following design steps:

  1. Design the workflow – what steps are needed, what is done in each step and by whom.
  2. Design the interfaces between the workflow steps. What material and/or information is transferred and in what format. It is also important to define the triggers for exchange (e.g. time or request based triggers).
  3. Design work methods for the individual workflow steps (how the work is done in each phase).

A key aspect of system design is to do it in such a way that the system highlights any problems that occur. In other words the system should make the gap between what is expected and what actually happens very clear. This allows problems to be noticed and solved.

Capability 2: Problem solving

Although it can be very tempting to hide problems under  the rug, the best organizations manage to resist this temptation again and again. Instead they choose to treat problems as the gifts that they are. Every noticed problem is an opportunity to improve. Every problem left unsolved is a missed opportunity. Not only do the best companies understand that problems are opportunities, they also understand the there is a right time to solve those problems. The right time is of course when the problems are noticed. Elite companies understand the value of swarming problems when they occur and have the organizational capability (and slack) to do so. The culture you should be aiming for is lets fix it now and lets fix it right.

As important as swarming problems is it is still only half of the equation.  The other half is knowing how to solve problems in the right way. The right way means solving problems with a systematic method which creates knowledge. This is commonly known as the scientific method or PDCA problem solving. Their are many variants of the exact process, but they typically  contain at least the following elements:

  1. Understand the situation and narrow down the problem
  2. Formulate a hypothesis about the problem
  3. Run an experiment to test your hypothesis
  4. Adjust your actions according to the results of the experiment (formulate a new hypothesis, adjust your current one, or celebrate)
  5. Stabilize the solution so that you won’t run into the same problem two months later in the same process

And remember that “speed is king”. The faster you can go through hypothesis – experiment – adjustment loops the faster you can learn.

Capability 3: Share knowledge

Having the capability to design systems and solve problems the right ways is very powerful, but the effects of the capabilities can be boosted by a adding a third one – the capability to effectively share knowledge. This is probably  something that most organizations think they already do quite well, but in reality this is seldom the case. Things like “best practice databases” or “lessons learned reviews” rarely work.

Fortunately some companies have managed to develop effective ways of sharing learning.  The key seems to not just to share the solutions. Instead the solutions need to be shared together with problem context and problem solving process.

When a solutions is described together with the context in which it was created it becomes possible to understand how our context is different. This in turn allows us to understand the adjustments we need to make in order to make it work for us.  Sometimes the contexts can be so different that a altogether different solution is needed.

Often the discovery process is more valuable then the actual solution. The discovery process often contains insights that can not be understood just from the solution. As the old saying goes it is better to teach someone to catch fish then to give them fish.  Another important aspect of sharing the solution discovery process is sharing the inevitable failures along the way. There is solid research that shows that it’s much more effective to share “worst practice” instead of best practice. In other words we are more likely to avoid the mistakes that you made than we are of utilizing your solution.

A good practice in knowledge sharing is using a pull based approach. This means the party who needs knowledge “pulls” it from other parties when they need it, instead of the knowledge being pushed by the people who already have it to those who do not.

Capability 4:  Managing by developing capabilities 1-4

Now that we understand what are the most important core capabilities of learning organizations, we need to have some way to develop them withing our own organization. One solution would of course be to sent everyone to the appropriate training courses and be done with it. Unfortunately it is not so easy.  Although it can be a good start, sending people to training courses does not develop  the required skills.  An interesting insight in Stevens research was that the companies who were really good at capabilities 1-3 had management who spent a lot of time developing these capabilities in the people they were responsible for.

Developing these competencies in the people you are responsible for puts a lot pressure on you as a manager. Not only do you need to be sufficiently skilled in these capabilities (don’t worry you don’t have to be the best), but you also need to have the coaching and mentoring skills to help others learn. Now that’s a tall order, but that’s how the best do it.

By taking personal responsibility of developing these capabilities in your organization you can also sent a powerful message about their importance.

Rap up

My apologies in advance to you Steven in case I did wrong to your research in my brief explanation of a complicated topic (and thank you for the insights).  Buy the book. It is definitely worth the read. The book also contains fascinating examples from different organizations like Toyota,  the US Navy and Alcoa.

Understanding the dna of elite organizations allows you to know what are the right capabilities to develop in your organization beyond the immediate requirements of your business sector. This can be the thing that sets you apart from your competition and gives an sustainable edge (a rare thing indeed).

I have found this model really useful and insightful. Hopefully you will too.  I have been playing around with my own “learning organization house” – model and plan on writing about it in the near future.

As a finishing note I would like to add a word of warning:

“All models are wrong, but some are useful” – George E. P. Box

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Posted in Knowledge Management, Lean, Learning, Management | 4 Comments

Estimating Work Amounts (Beginners)

We managers usually want to know as soon as possible how long something takes. At the same time complexity is increasing when we are implementing changes. This leads to a weird contradiction:

  1. You want to know as early as possible as accurate as possible how long something (project, task, etc) takes.
  2. At the same time, things usually are so complicated that you know a little bit more after you experimented with something (you know what’s really needed after you try something out, guessing usually is like playing a lottery).

So there we have it, today’s problem: Work estimates

Why Do We Get it Wrong?

First off I would like to introduce few ideas that lead to wrong paths and prohibit us from learning to do things right way:

  • Work has a lot of different natures. The first problem is to have methods of knowing where you are. This is the case where we usually get it wrong, we guess instead of getting the knowledge because we’re in a rush. I will return on this subject on a later date, but for now it’s important to understand there are different ways you can approach situations and we usually guess and use intuition instead of skill.
  • Uncertainty, is a big problem for human beings. We wish it would not be present and make assumptions based on these beliefs. This usually happens subconsciously, so that’s why we don’t even recognize it. This however is something that we need to unlearn and accept. In some situations where you only know where you are by taking a step into some direction (the first one might be a wrong one, so we need to keep searching the right path).
  • Experience and Skills (experience on what I just wrote, not experience on guessing). Skills however are things which you can train with for example checklists and you can become better in estimating what usually needs to be taken into consideration. It’s similar with risk management. When we lack these, then we usually work the best possible way we can, which leads to noticing only part of the things we should be looking at. Using tools like checklists usually works for simpler domain of work.
  • We don’t look back on estimates we used to do and learn from them. Too busy on starting the next thing on the queue. One of the best ways to get to a same ballpark is to guess if it’s around same size and complexity than something else. But you need to be able to compare, not think how would you do it. If you look back, you will be able to do this in a better accuracy because you can place work on a line compared to other work better.looking-back
  • We don’t want to disappoint. Now here’s the funny thing: This is mostly just a communication problem. A person wanting to know when something happens wants to get the date accurate and early. So when we give it early, we need to be able to communicate the uncertainty. Even if we’re demanded accurate numbers we can tell the truth we have with the error involved. If you do this you won’t be in a situation where both are going through negative feelings; Person A feels disappointed that something didn’t happen on time and even worse might think it’s person B’s fault; Person B thinks he could have not gotten it right in the first place and tries to avoid situations like this in the future.
  • We also don’t split the work into small enough pieces that would make us able to understand the complexity. And we don’t usually consider the dependencies.
  • We stick to a plan even when we know it’s failing.

Linear Estimating

Here are few basic techniques you can try to avoid things I just mentioned.

Start with putting few things down on a line that you done in the past. Put the hardest and most work requiring thing in the right end and something you think is like snapping a fingers to left end. Then start filling the line with familiar stuff. Then place the thing you are asked to do between them.

After that you can tell that it’s harder than hard project X that we just did but easier than the nightmare project Y that we finished last year.

linear

This simple forced thinking technique you to dig stuff from your history instead of going into “forced planning mode” too early.

Checklists

You can find a good checklist on almost anything using Google. Going on a trip, doing minor updates etc. This is a start, but it only works when you are in the simpler domain. So I would encourage to use this only on smaller things to get the “invisible work” like communicating (and all IT service management disciplines) that usually gets added later on the project plan or forgotten.

thingstodo

If you have something that’s small scale but bit unfamiliar, using groups to create ideas and tasks what need to be done with simple me-we-us facilitating techniques also work great on building your own short lists.

Conclusion

The problem of estimating is following:

  1. First understanding where you really are and accepting the place if it’s not the one you wish it to be.
  2. Communicating the uncertainty
  3. Not using historical data to get the ballpark right.

This is simplifying the problem a bit, but should give you hints where to start first looking for better ways of working.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Budget deficits and innovation part II – using TRIZ (theory of inventive problem solving) to generate ideas

In my last blog post I wrote about the contradiction between cost savings due to recession and the need to be progressively more innovative due to market pressure. I offered one possible solution and discussed briefly the other prerequisites for innovation.

In this post I will take on the topic from another perspective. I will continue with the same contradiction and utilize TRIZ (theory of inventive problem solving) to generate ideas.

One basic recipe for innovation and problem solving (yes, I’m simplifying a lot!) with TRIZ is:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Find the contradictions in the problem
  3. Translate the problem specific contradiction into a more general one (and to the language of TRIZ)
  4. Lookup the problem in a contradiction matrix  and find the corresponding inventive principles
  5. Utilize the corresponding inventive principles to generate relevant ideas

There are a few widely used contradiction matrices (the TRIZ40 site is a good free example) and I have chosen to use the “business contradiction matrix” (by Darrell Mann) for this case.  The problem definition can be found in last week’s blog post, so I will jump straight to the contradiction phase.

Defining the contradiction and using the contradiction matrix

The problem specific contradiction is:

In order to adjust to the recession organizations need to cut on spending and have lighter cost structures

 

VS

There is increasing pressure to innovate constantly and innovation requires people, resources and investments.

When generalized and translated into the language of TRIZ this contradiction becomes:

R&D Costs 

VS

R&D Capability

Now we are ready to look up the general solution recommendations of the business contradiction matrix (from “Hands on systematic innovation for business and management” by Darrell Mann).  The matrix recommends we use the inventive principles 2 (taking out), 4 (asymmetry), 15 (dynamics), 38 (enriched atmosphere)  to generate ideas for our problem.  So now it’s finally time to get to the fun part… generating ideas!

Generating ideas using the inventive principles

In this chapter I will list relevant inventive principles for this problem (and their short explanations) and generate ideas based on them in a short workshop.

Principle 2 – Taking out

  1. Separate an interfering part or property from an object, or single out the only necessary part (or property) of an object.

Generated ideas:

  • Break down barriers between departments – have the operations department (and others) participate in R & D whenever they have the extra capacity to do so. Also give them basic training in R & D so they can effectively contribute.
  • Limit the number of concurrent R&D projects. This will decrease the lead time (less money tied  into unfinished work)  and improve general productivity of the people
  • Is your R&D process too heavy? Does it contain extra bureaucracy or other waste? Can you make it leaner?
  • Can you analyze what really matters to you customer and focus your efforts in those area instead of trying to develop everything?
  • Can you reduce/eliminate fear and uncertainty in your employees? This will increase creativity and productivity.
  • Can you estimate when you will need the new features and utilize JIT (just in time) in your R&D (requires predictable process)
  • Can you “outsource” some of your R&D efforts to your customers? Some customers love to be testers of new technology and some will happily spent their time developing new feature/concept ideas for you.
  • Have a small and capable R&D team that is separated and protected from the rest of the organization and it’s processes (skunkworks)
  • Utilize technology effectively in the R&D process – software for customer feedback and automated analyses of how (and what) customers use your products/services
  • Eliminate unneeded handovers from your R&D process they usually cause ineffectiveness and lower quality.
  • How many roles do you need in R&D? Can you reduce the amount of roles and keep the same amount of people (more general skill and work profile).
  • What technology do you need to develop yourself and what can you buy cheaper?

Principle 4 – Asymmetry

  1. A. Change the shape of an object from symmetrical to asymmetrical.
  2. If an object is asymmetrical, increase its degree of asymmetry.

Generated ideas:

  • “Outsource” some R&D efforts with a profit sharing agreement -> get the technology now and pay when it generates profits.
  • Share profits of products with employees and offer lower base wages.
  • Maximize team effectiveness by carefully considering team dynamics in addition to needed skills when constructing R&D teams for projects
  • Start a lot more projects than you will finish and aggressively kill projects in their early phases if they don’t show promising results. This will allow a higher success rate on the more expensive later phases of the R&D process while maintaining a high variety of initial ideas.
  • Don’t be an equal opportunity budget cutter – give more money to well performing and strategic areas and cut aggressively from other areas.
  • Validate your new products and services as often and early as possible – and react quickly by changing direction or cutting unpromising ideas. Do this especially in the early phases when change is cheap.
  • Invest in cheaper/more light weight R&D methods
  • Collaborate with “complementor” organizations (and organizations from other industries with similar problems) to share R&D expenses.

Principle 15 – Dynamics

  1. Allow (or design) the characteristics of an object, external environment, or process to change to be optimal or to find an optimal operating condition.
  2. Divide an object into parts capable of movement relative to each other.
  3. If an object (or process) is rigid or inflexible, make it movable or adaptive.

Generated ideas:

  • Change people between different parts of the organization dynamically according to need (eg. switch people between operations and R&D based on seasonal or weekly variation in workload)
  • Empower  people to use a little bit or their working time for development projects and allow the whole organization to become the R&D department
  • Use students or interns to handle peaks in R&D capacity development
  • Masters thesis’s are a cheap way to do R&D
  • The market demands change quickly so check every few months that your R&D projects are still relevant to the customers.
  • Be agile in R&D because the windows of opportunity can be small. There are plenty of situations where a quick solution to the market now is better than a really good one six months later. This approach can also cut expenses.
  • Divide large R&D project into smaller ones. This reduces the risk and the capital tied into unfinished projects.
  • Make your R&D process flexible so that it fits well into different R&D scenarios and rigid procedures due not cause unnecessary waste.

Principle 38 – Enriched atmosphere

  1. Replace normal atmosphere with an enriched one.
  2. Expose a highly enriched atmosphere with one containing potentially ‘unstable’ elements.

Generated ideas:

  • Use outside experts or consultants for special R&D activities that are not very common.
  • Utilize creative tension – for example have an internal competition to see which team can come up with best solution to an important problem and limit the time the teams can use to come up with solution.
  • Utilize maverick types in the organization “outside” the normal process/structure to come up with competitive ideas.
  • Have a release early policy on all R&D projects and base decisions of additional funding purely on customer reactions.
  • A high number of small projects can reduce risk compared to a few large R&D efforts.
  • Create a startup culture and possibilities within the company and spinoff new ideas into small new daughter companies with very limited funding. You can also seek additional R&D funding from venture capitalists for these spinoffs.
  • Give “junior” people a shot at the spot light – highly motivated people will move mountains.
  • Have someone play the role of “kill the project” – monster in portfolio meetings to make sure that “bad” projects get killed.

Rap up

I spent about one hour generating these ideas. So as we can see TRIZ is an excellent source of ideas. Of course getting started with TRIZ does require some work, but in my opinion it is well worth the investment. There are some very similar ideas generated by different principles, but I did not remove the duplication to illustrate that different principles can lead to similar ideas.

When trying to generate ideas on how to cut R&D spending we should always consider the innovative principles 6 (universality), 10 (prior action), 22 (continuity of useful action), 25 (self-service) as well  (source  = “management contradiction matrix ” by Darrell Mann). These principles seem to point in some interesting directions, but that’s a story for another day.

I hope this blog post gave you some ideas about minimizing R&D costs without compromising the R&D capability of your company. Perhaps it even made you a little bit curious about TRIZ. Good luck and remember to search for innovative ideas in whatever you do!

Posted in Management, Triz | Leave a comment

The D and A in ADKAR

This week I decided to write about ADKAR change management model and letters D and A (second A) to be precise. A stands for Ability and D stands for desire. These things are the places where we usually fail, so make sure that you keep them in mind when parting on a change trip.

ADKAR in a nutshell

First off a short introduction to ADKAR model:

The letters have a following meaning,

  • Awareness of the need to change
  • Desire to participate and support the change
  • Knowledge of how to change (and what the change looks like)
  • Ability to implement the change on a day-to-day basis
  • Reinforcement to keep the change in place

Model in a nutshell is a reminder of the things you need to do for change to happen.

Desire

How to create the willingness for people to change and support something that by nature we humans tend to resist?

Usually this happens by telling what’s in it for me, and telling it through different mediums and ways. You need to keep in mind things like likelihood, incentives, willingness to be part of something and leading with good example are all ways of building desire.

Practical example: An ad-campaign in house, that involves people near you sharing their ideas, hopes and fears about the change that’s coming. Perhaps make a video of this. This can be done in a mini-scale inside organizational units, so that people recognize people who are involved in the change and telling their feelings. This is important, because watching something you don’t relate to, will not get results you want.

Also run experiments like social network stimulation to figure out a right ways for change to happen. Ask the questions “What would make you want to change and how to do it?”. This will bring out the way it will work in your organization. We did an experiment like this and we had 2 teams both coming up with similar ideas with the core project team, so we knew we nailed at least few ways the change should occur. Ways like this will motivate and create the sense of likelihood. We also got ideas we never would have came up with.

Few practical examples: Make it visible, Rise through the static (static being intranet / official way of delivering company news that no one reads anyways), do something with the CxO, that will show everyone that you and the sponsors are really jumping in with both feet!

Think of this like reading a book, if you try to force it, it will fail. If you are motivated and enthusiastic about reading the book, you probably gorge through it in few days. Don’t push the boulder uphill if you have a choice.

Never-Give-Up

Ability

Ability is the skill acquired through practicing and training. It might sound simple, but this is where change is usually failing. People just don’t know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. People don’t know what they are expected of and how to take that first scary step that you might have been avoiding so far.

Asking people what would they require to apply the change is one of the key elements. However it will only bring half of the truth out. Some inconvenient things, if they are involved in the change, like avoiding responsibility due to fear (personal mode: Flight) will probably not just pop out.

Analyzing what will change and how it will change for specific stakeholders will help you find the truth. For example:

Manager Jay is required to coach everyone in his team, by doing face to face meetings once a week. He’s shown a powerpoint that has a good checklist on what questions to ask and what kind of goals to set. Jay however has no idea what the word coaching means, he also knows that no one will check if he will do it or not.

So first thing to give Jay a fighting chance, someone needs to start coaching him and teach him the basics of coaching. Actually practice the thing he is assumed to do for others. This rarely happens, because Jay’s boss is so busy that this part is skipped. Also when rolling out the plan to start coaching, the motivation of not doing it and that it will have some consequences has to be built into Jay’s brain, by telling that he’s staff will be asked if coaching has started, thus creating a motivation for him to start learning.

Ability is like telling a kid to start riding a bike without giving the training wheels. It will happen eventually after tears and a long time of failing to do it.

child-falls-off-bike

Summary

These two are not the most important letters from ADKAR, but they are the ones that most commonly are neglected or done poorly. Analyze them and write up what you are actually are doing for specific stakeholders to meet D and A requirements.

D and A are hard. Keep trying. Do experiments and don’t give up even if you fail at these, just remember learn from your assumptions.

never-give-up1

Posted in Change Management, Management, Methods and frameworks, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Budget deficits and innovation – why you should cut more than you need to!

The economy is in a recession at least here in Europe, which is forcing a lot of organizations to make cuts in their budget to adjust to the new financial realities.  There also doesn’t seem to be a upswing around the corner so waiting for better times isn’t a viable option unless you are a foolish optimist.

Cutting spending seems to be the smart thing to do. Unfortunately cutting spending seems to be in direct contradiction to the other driver of our times – innovation. As product life cycles keep on shortening and the expectations for quality rise there is increasing pressure for organizations to continually innovate and bring new  (and better) products/services to the market.

The contradiction

In order to adjust to the recession organizations need to cut on spending and have lighter cost structures

 

VS

There is increasing pressure to innovate constantly and innovation requires people, resources and investments.

Whenever there is a contradiction the first reaction is always to optimize. In this case the obvious answer would be to just cut a little and compromise.  While this may work in some situations better answers to contradictions can be found by challenging yourself to search for AND answers.  How can I cut the budget to adjust to the new financial realities AND have more innovation?

One possible answer is counter intuitive.  Cut more than you need to.  If you need to cut down on spending by 20 % how about cutting 30 % instead and investing the extra 10 percent in innovating in your most important focus areas? This allows you to increasing your capability to innovate while making your cost structure competitive.

Big cuts can in themselves encourage innovation. When the cuts are small people usually adjust by trimming the current way of doing the work. If the cuts are big enough people will realize that the trimming approach is impossible and are forced to search for new ways of doing the work.

Of course real life is more complicated than that. Just making big budget cuts probably won’t make your organization innovative.  You’ll also need the other building blocks of innovation:

  • A safe and encouraging atmosphere – despite the need for cutbacks people need to feel safe in order to be creative.  When people focus too much on personal “survival” the changes of breakthrough ideas fall drastically.
  • Strategic choices – with limited resources the organization need clear choices on which areas to focus on and which not to. Those choices need to be crystal clear to everyone in the organization.  Of course it helps if those choices have at least an element of boldness.
  • Sources of ideas – while people are very creative their creativeness can be greatly enhanced with the right kind of stimulus like benchmarking companies outside their industry and utilizing methods like TRIZ.
  • Capability to experiment – innovations are not born out of procrastination and big projects.  Instead organizations should nurture different ideas and have the capability to run quick and cheap experiments in order to see what works.

Good luck to you and your organization in adjusting to the recession and remember to keep your eyes open because recessions historically offer great opportunities for innovation.

Posted in Management, Triz | 1 Comment

An example of creative problem solving with the nine windows method

In this blog post I will go through an example of creative problem solving using a wide perspective to find potential ideas. I’ll be utilizing the “nine windows”  – method to which I wrote an introduction article  last week.

The nine windows methods offers nine (surprise )different perspectives from which you can search for ideas to solve your problem. The perspectives are:

Past Super-System Present Super-System Future Super-System
Past System Present System Future System
Past Sub-System Present Sub-System Future Sub-System

Our sample problem statement is:

The quality of the decisions of the decision making meetings is perceived to be poor by the rest of the organization. This is partly due to the real quality of the decisions and partly to poor visibility into the decisions making meetings.

Yes, this is quit a general problem. I chose this general formulation because I did not want to get lost in the details that come with a more specific formulation.  Perhaps a more general formulation can also generate more general ideas which can be can be applied in a wider set of contexts.

The firs step is to recognize the the contents of the nine perspectives for our problem. There is no right answer to this question and just thinking about the contents of the different windows will help us gain new perspectives to the problem. The nine windows perspectives for our example could be:

Organizational planning processes and practices Decision making processes and structures Communication processes and practices
Preparation of meeting agenda Decision making meeting Communication of the results of the meeting
Preparation of an individual decision proposal Decision and reasoning for an individual decision item Communication of individual decision

Now we are ready to start brainstorming ideas for these different perspectives. It is important not to be critical at this point. Instead focus in creating as many ideas as possible and it’s definitely ok to be “out there”. The refinement and selection phases will come later.

Generating ideas from the nine windows

These ideas where generated in a 30 minute workshop with me as the only participant:) Some of the ideas are perhaps not in the “right” window or could be categorized in multiple windows. This a normal part of the process and there is no reason to be too pedant about it. The idea is create a wide spectrum of ideas by considering the problem from different perspectives, not to focus too much in categorization.

Abstraction level: Super-System & Time: Past

  • Identify decision categories and form special interest groups (SIG’s) around those decision categories to prepare the decision suggestions. Membership in the SIG’s can be based on role and interest in the subject.
  • Have clearly defined processes for preparing decisions (open and participative)
    • How long before does the process start
    • Who and how can people contribute
    • Where can the current material for the decision be found
    • How will the upcoming decision suggestion be communicated
    • Make sure people are aware of decision are aware of the decision preparation process and can participate in improving it

Abstraction level: System & Time: Past

  • Validate that the decisions are well prepared before accepting the to the meeting agenda
  • Have good templates available for decision suggestions
  • Offer coaching/support for people who bring decision suggestions to the meeting
  • Have the decision suggestion well beforehand the decision meeting so there is adequate time to prepare
  • Insist that people spent enough time (and have the time to spent) preparing for the meeting

Abstraction level: Sub-System & Time: Past

  • Identify the most important stakeholders for every decision and make sure those groups are aware of the upcoming decision and have a real possibility to contribute their views in a way that will be accessible in the decision meeting.
  • Ask stakeholders for other options to the ones being considered
  • Make sure there is enough time for contributions before the decision meeting

 

Abstraction level: Super-System & Time: Present

  • Make sure that the decision making process and forums are crystal clear to everyone in the organization. Make sure that everyone also knows the reasoning for the current decision making model and structure
  • Challenges the process and structure regularly and let everyone make suggestion on how to improve it

Abstraction level: System & Time: Present

  • Have enough time on reserved for the meetings so that there can be proper discussions and there isn’t pressure to skip to a decision
  • Ask someone to be on the “red team” and make counter arguments to the decision to made so that group pressure to be positive does not silence people
  • Broadcast the decision making meeting to the hole organization with virtual meeting technology
  • Make video recordings of the decisions and the reasoning behind them and distribute the videos to complete the minutes of the meeting
  • Have a separate easily accessible decision log and don’t burry the decisions into the minutes of the meeting where it is difficult to access later on
  • Have experts on call during the meeting if further information is needed (phone, social media tools, real time poll questions)

Abstraction level: Sub-System & Time: Present

  • Ask if anyone has a reason why the decision should be delayed. If there is a good reason then delay the decision (for example too many unknowns or not enough options).
  • When a decision is made spent a few minutes together formulating the main points why a certain option was chosen. It is very useful to also document the reasons why some others were not chosen. Write those reasons down during the meeting and not after. Have a template for this.
  • If the decision is especially important to a certain group make sure they have representation in that decision (even if they don’t normally have a representative in that decision making forum).

Abstraction level: Super-System & Time: Future

  • Have a clear process for communication the results of the meeting
  • The communication process should have a elements of repetition build into it
  • Publish the results in multiple forums (intranet, social tools, email)
  • Allow people to customize how and what information they will get about the decisions
  • The decision log tool should be known to everyone, have good usability and an excellent search function
  • Make sure there is a clear process to amend the decisions is unseen problems arise and that it is well known.
  • Train the people who do the face to face communication in effective communication techniques
  • Top manage should make it clear that good communication of the decisions is a priority and that should be reflected in their own actions.

Abstraction level: System & Time: Future

  • Publish the minutes of the meeting and updated decision log immediately after the meeting (have a calendar reservation for it). This will reduce rumors and gives the meeting more credibility. This will also enhance the quality of the minutes of the meeting
  • Offer the information about the decisions in different ways (minutes of the meeting, decision log, video summary, face to face…)
  • Customize communication material automatically based on
    • Roles
    • Organizational units
    • Projects
    • Special interest groups
    • Personal preferences

Abstraction level: Sub-System & Time: Future

  • Categorize the decisions and allow people to subscribe the decision categories so they will get a personal email for all the decisions made in that category
  • Make sure that every decision has a why section in the communication material
  • Make sure that the most important stakeholders of the decision are communicated to directly in addition to the “normal channels” and make sure they get the information first.
Posted in Triz | Leave a comment

Learning to Learn

I’m going to continue a subject that Teemu started few weeks back. I’ll describe a personal way of learning and do a short analysis of this hoping it might help you to learn faster and make it more conscious.

I think learning to learn has been the single most powerful revelation that I had at work so far. Learning to learn and do it faster have even been called a superpower by some. For me learning to learn is easier through following ways:

  • Moving from subconscious and random (ie. attending a random seminar, reading a book that people complimented) to conscious (ie. following a process that you know will go through the curiosity and motivation to deeper understanding, when you need to learn a new idea or a method even if at the moment it doesn’t feel like you want to do it).
  • Basically admitting that you probably know very little. When you train a thinking that will assume that every situation is: “is it so?” instead of “of course it is” will help you to accept new ideas easier without going to defense mode (again sCarf). You need to question even things that defy the way you consider how the world works and you know that this is the truth!
  • Also non-violent communication listening method: Everthing is either “thank you” or “a please”, even if it’s coming out in a non constructive way. An example: You think you did a great job, better than ever, in communicating a change to team leaders, but you still get ranted for someone not hearing it or hearing about it too late. What he or she might mean is: “could you please explain this to me further, I didn’t really understand this” or “Could I please get more time in completing the task you requested from me?”. This also leads to self reflecting, because you could probably do something in a better way to make the change go smoother for everyone.

Practical Tips

Follow a process where you didn’t learn and where you did learn and analyze it thoroughly:

  1. Analyze what you tried to do and why it didn’t work.
  2. Analyze what you did do and why it worked.
  3. Train this.

I think many times learning happens on subconscious level and how it turns out is sometimes you learned something and sometimes you think you did, but you don’t really know if you did or didn’t except by trying it out and being honest with yourself (another loop that needs training). Here’s a good tip for you: If you think it’s the people why something didn’t work, then it’s a good hint that you probably are not there yet. Most times there’s something wrong in the way something was attempted, and not with people participating in it.

What’s My Process of Learning to Learn?

An example that I’m sure most of you recognize: You’re reading a book and after 10 pages you realized that you remember just the first one. You don’t have the motivation to do what you want to do.

study

For me if I want to learn something, this works a lot better than just trying to ram through a brick wall (ie. reading that book):

  1. Watch a keynote or a tutoring video. This creates motivation and shallow understanding. Better yet if you can attend an actual training where you can engage others and discuss about the subject.
  2. Reading an article or two to create more understanding.
  3. Going deeper with a book.
  4. Training in practice things I think I learned, analyzing what I did and how I did it.
  5. Going back on the subject with re-reading articles and train more.

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Conclusion?

For you the ways or the order might be different, but you need to be aware of yourself on how to create motivation and how to repeat the process so you will be on a lifelong path of learning instead of sometimes picking something that just happened to come in the right medium and order for you.

Posted in Learning, Methods and frameworks, PDCA | Leave a comment